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Blazing Away

4 May 2009, 07:35 UTC
Blazing Away
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

For the first time in many, many years, I was unable to attend the annual April Meeting of the American Physical Society, held this past weekend in Denver -- technically in May, but who's quibbling? So I missed out on some of the latest news in astrophysics, cosmology, high energy physics, nuclear/particle physics, and so forth -- including a round-up of talks covering the first data results collected from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope (a.k.a., "The Telescope Formerly Known as GLAST") launched last June to great fanfare. It's been merrily orbiting away ever since, some 350 miles above Earth, surveying the entire sky every three hours or so.The Fermi Telescope is specifically looking for gamma ray bursts, mysterious yet spectacular displays that release more energy in just a few seconds than our Sun will emit over 10 billion years. In fact, Charles Meegan of USRA -- one of the physicists speaking at the APS meeting -- reported the detection of a GRB with more energy than roughly 9000 supernovae. GRBs are so bright astronomers can detect GRBs that are billions of light years away. Scientists think these bursts are caused by the collapse of massive stars, and the hope is ...

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